Friday, September 27, 2013

Learning from the Quilt Show

I just spent an amazing week in Pennsylvania. I went with a bus full of women to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza XX.  We stayed in Lancaster PA and traveled each day to quilt shops, the quilt show as well as one day touring Philadelphia. Here are some of the quilt shops we visited – I highly recommend all of them!

My favourite was Burkholder Fabrics in Denver PA. It’s huge and bright. The prices are great and the personnel very friendly and helpful. On our way to Lancaster, we stopped in a Sauder’s Fabric. There was a lot of fabric, good prices and helpful personnel.

During our shopping day, we went to Intercourse PA. It’s a quaint village in Amish / Mennonite country. There is a small but lovely quilt museum over The Old Country Store that is worth visiting. The Old Quilt Store also has gifts and fabric at the back of the shop that you’ll want to  check out. Don’t forget to stop in at the Intercourse Canning Company down the street for samples of their jams and pickled products! Thanks to these guys, I will have lovely pickled beets for the winter (‘cause who wants to stop quilting to do canning....not me!) I also bought some pickled sweet brussel sprouts – they are awesome! For my daughter, who loves all things bacon, I picked up some bacon lip gloss at the Intercourse Canning Company (to quote her “to grease up those lips”) and some candied bacon at a small vendor! I tasted the candied bacon – delicious. Enough about shopping except to say that I now have enough notions, batting and fabric for the upcoming year (or two). Notice books, patterns and courses are not on that list!

Wonderful mural in Philadelphia
The Quilt Show had some wonderful special exhibits and quilts. As well as looking at the quilts as works of art, which they are, it was also very educational. Now that I've tried my hand at free motion quilting and art quilts, I can now look at quilts in the same way that aspiring artists look at paintings in a museum – with a view to learn from them. I took about a hundred photos – to learn about composition, colour, the use of embroidery and embellishment, and of course quilting. One of the first things I did when I got home, other than start washing all that fabric, was to organise the photos in categories so that I can refer to them when I want ideas and inspiration.

I was sure that I wouldn't be doing any shopping at the quilt show since I had bought so much on the way there – right! Some of the vendors had great prices, but the best part was meeting the authors of patterns, books, rulers, etc. I know that it’s a lot of work, time and expense to have a booth at this type of show but it really was great to thank these authors and creators for their work. 

What I learned during my trip:
  • There is such a thing as too much shopping (I never in a million years thought I would say that!)
  • My girlfriends were right – to do that much shopping, you have to be really well organised and have a good idea of what you want to buy.
  • You can fit an awful lot of fabric in a large suitcase (though it will weigh a ton!)
  • Travelling with a bus full of quilters you’re not sure you know is not risky – we have so much in common, it’s easy to make friends.
  • I have no idea where most of the States are located – so I bought a cute little app that will help me learn them. After those 50 states, the rest of the world!
  • After thinking about quilting all week, I thought I would be dying to start quilting – but I seem to be exhausted and am spending my free time reading! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

First Paper Piecing Assignment Completed

As you may recall, I have been learning up a storm with Craftsy. For the Mastering Foundation Paper Piecing course with Carol Doak, I started off by making some cute 3-inch squares. They were more interesting and less intimidating than the course assignment. Last night, I finished free motion quilting my first assignment. It’s a Sunflower Fun Foundation block. It wasn't difficult, but since all of my points and corners are not perfect, maybe it was more complicated than I thought! I still need to bind the project. As soon as it's done, I'll add a picture.

completed block
Sunflower Fun Foundation Block - partially done
Carol Doak suggested that since we had to make 4 blocks that are the same, that we use a production method (i.e. doing the same thing on all fours blocks before going on to the next part). That worked well until about half way through the project. Then I couldn't wait to see what the block would look like, so I completed one block before making the other three.

As I mentioned earlier, I thought I was following the lines, but somewhere, I must have gone off since my points were certainly not the same on all 4 pieces. I’ll have to pay attention to that in the next project.

I really enjoyed free motion quilting the project. I drew the border and tried to follow the lines. I was getting pretty good near the end. That probably means I should have practices more. I also tried out the free motion stitch that looks like a rainbow. I think that it was very effective. It was neat trying out different free motion stitches for the various parts of the quilt.

I used a very good quality gray thread in the bobbin. Since I don’t have that many good quality threads to match the top, I ended up trying some cotton thread of lesser quality on top – it worked out fine. It looks like my machine is mostly finicky about the bobbin thread it uses. Bonus!

What did I learn?

  • I can do production piecing only up to a certain point, after that, I don’t have the patience to wait to see the final result.
  • I need to practice following those lines!
  • Some more good quality thread, especially for the bobbin would be a good investment.(Any excuse to shop!)
Update! See the final version.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

First Free Motion Quilted Runner

Table Runner - free motion quilted
Table Runner - free motion quilted
The adventure continues. My childhood friends, Lyne and Luc, were coming to Ottawa to see their daughter during the long weekend. Since I knew they would be dropping in, I asked Lyne what her kitchen colours were: light yellow, lime green and rose. Those are so not my colours, so off to Quilty Pleasures for some fabric. I got really lucky and found two beautiful prints, obviously from the same line with flowers and cattails. They both had yellow, green and pink. The green is more minty than lime – hopefully it won’t clash.

Of course after all of that practicing, I had to use my new free-motion quilting skills. I started the paisleys in the right-hand corner. It’s a good thing that it’s a table runner ‘cause it’s awfully stiff! Those first paisleys were just a little too small and close together. For the left-hand corner and the bottom left, I used a pattern of 2 rows of half-circles with stippling in the middle. This was perfect for the 2 inch strips. For the middle green fabric I used a template to make a type of spiral. I marked all of them and of course practiced before quilting them. By the end, they were looking pretty good!

Finally I had to do something in the bottom right. I watched Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting on Craftsy again, and sure enough, her paisleys were much larger than mine. So off I went to practice. I like the final result. It’s much less stiff than my first attempt.

The runner won’t win any quilting prizes, but that wasn't the point. It was a gift to a dear friend and a practice piece at the same time. Lyne is an artist – she knows all about practicing!

What did I learn?
1. Free motion quilting is fun, but if it’s done too closely, it can make a quilt very stiff!
2. I really like fabric that drapes and isn't stiff!
3. Practice, practice and when you think you have it, practice again!